Safety

Study: Cellphone laws and their impact on teens calling while driving

The Governor's Highway Safety Administration is highlighting the findings of a new study funded by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) examining teen driver use of cell phones while driving (CWD). The study found that found states with concurrent laws (a young driver ban plus a ban on hand-held calling for all drivers irrespective of age) are the most effective at getting novice drivers to hang up and focus on the road.

Using Youth Risk Behavior Survey (YRBS) data from 14 states for 2013, 2015, 2017 and 2019, the researchers grouped the states by type of cellphone law: no hand-held ban either for teens or all other drivers, a ban prohibiting all forms of CWD use by teen drivers, or a concurrent ban prohibiting both teens and all other drivers from hand-held CWD.

More than 150,000 high school students participated in the survey, with 45% having reached the minimum age to obtain an intermediate license and drive during the 30-day survey period. Approximately 53% of the participants reported CWD at least once during the previous 30 days. Compared to students with no bans, those from states with concurrent bans were 19% less likely to engage in CWD. Students in states with concurrent bans were 23% less likely to engage in CWD compared to students in states with young driver bans only.

The researchers noted that further research into the effectiveness of cellphone laws is warranted, but “it is apparent that restricting [hand-held cellphone use by] drivers of all ages, including teens, may influence the traffic safety culture on distracted driving.”